The Cornell College teacher education program, which has been approved by the state of Iowa since 1879, emphasizes scholarship, teaching, and service through active learning and a demonstrated commitment to the liberal arts. We believe that good teaching requires strong pedagogical content knowledge that combines the “how” of teaching with the “what” of teaching through inquiry, reflection, and pedagogical reasoning (Schulman, 1987). We expect aspiring teachers in our program to engage in meaningful dialogue, artful expression, and critical thinking in ways that promote an ethic of care and democratic ideals.
The Education Department at Cornell College offers students a unique opportunity to prepare for a career in elementary and/or secondary school teaching. Building upon a student's strong academic major or concentration, the department offers a carefully designed program of courses concentrating on the historical, philosophical, ethical, legal, psychological, and pedagogical dimensions of education. In keeping with the mission statement of the college, the Education Department is genuinely committed to promoting and defending liberal learning and democratic values. All aspiring teacher candidates are expected to think carefully about their work, to actively engage their minds so as to reflect and evaluate their teaching, and to develop a genuine sense of creativity and inquiry that will guide their personal and professional lives. The department has identified five guiding conceptual goals to support this framework: educational criticism and connoisseurship, an ethic of care, pedagogical content knowledge, professionalism, and culturally sustaining pedagogy. It is the fulfillment of these goals that provide our students the underlying skills and knowledge they need to apply theory to practice as thereby achieve success as professional educators.
Theories Informing the Education Department’s Conceptual Framework
The Cornell College Education Department believes that knowledge is acquired through experience (Dewey, 1938). Experiences originate from our senses and, in turn, are shared with others in multiple forms of representation (Eisner, 1994). This transaction is an essential facet of a meaningful education. We encourage students to use varied modes of expression to communicate ideas so that their audience’s understanding is multifaceted. To this end, we incorporate teaching methodologies in our practices that encourage students to be educational connoisseurs and critics (Eisner, 1976). Connoisseurship is the art of appreciation, and in the context of teaching and learning, we encourage aspiring teachers to be aware of and attend to the subtle details within the complex ecology of schools. Paired with connoisseurship is criticism, which involves the expression of these details in written or verbal forms. The Eisnerian methodology of educational criticism and connoisseurship asks students to describe, interpret, and evaluate the features of a lesson, a student artifact, a discussion, or other classroom dynamic with great detail. In becoming educational critics, teacher candidates are well positioned to make sound decisions in their teaching practice.
Our program also encourages actions that result from ones that are based on an ethic of care and a commitment to the democratic ideal. In advocating for an ethic of care in our program, we use Noddings’ (1992) definition of care, which is based on the relation between the carer and the cared-for, requires that the recipient acknowledge and demonstrate that care has truly been received. In other words, care extends well beyond the realm of good intentions. Noddings (2005) advocates for an attendance to care that extends beyond self-care and interpersonal relationships to include a care of the natural world, human-made objects, and ideas. We believe that this expansive view of care encompasses much of what is important in teaching and learning.
Another principle that steers our program is pedagogical content knowledge. We agree with Shulman (1987) that knowledge and pedagogy are inherently imbued. In an authentic evaluation of teacher candidates, performance must be assessed with the subject matter in mind. Teachers must have a deep sense of their subject matter and, with that, a keen facility with the tools and techniques best suited for imparting this knowledge. In light of emerging instructional technologies, we also include the concept of “technological pedagogical content knowledge,” or TPCK (Mishra & Koehler, 2006), which extends the complementary nature of knowledge and pedagogy to include the digital world in creative ways.
The fourth dimension of our conceptual framework involves the work of culturally sustaining pedagogy (Paris, 2012). Culturally sustaining pedagogy “seeks to perpetuate and foster—to sustain—linguistic, literate, and cultural pluralism as part of the democratic project of schooling” (p. 93). This concept, evolved from Ladson-Billings’ (1995) theories on culturally relevant pedagogy, acknowledges the ever-changing demographics of our society that shape (and are shaped by) students’ cultural identities. In adopting an ethic of culturally sustaining pedagogy, the education department encourages teacher candidates to simultaneously nurture cultural competence of diverse learners while supporting unfettered access to dominant cultural and social capital.
Finally, we believe that professionalism plays a unique role in the field of education. Teachers are drawn to education for a myriad of reasons: They enjoy working with children, they love the subject matter, they are called to service. It is a sense of professionalism that provides the anchor to these noble intentions. Our teacher education community acknowledges the diversity of aspiring teachers’ aims for their classrooms and, at the same time, fosters the acquisition of a professional identity through modeling and expecting the highest of ethical standards, disciplined study in the liberal arts, critical thinking, and action research (Cochran-Smith & Zeichner, 2005). Also, we believe that teaching competence stems from professionalism which, when exercised democratically in service to others, develops teachers who are informed by a commitment to work and communicate effectively with and for all students, their families, and communities (Ogulnick, 2000). As a result, Cornell College teacher education graduates possess a passion for lifelong learning, a desire and ability to ignite this passion in others, and a commitment to exercise this ability in democratic, culturally responsive teaching and service to others through work with diverse students, families, and communities.
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Eisner, E. (1975). “Educational connoisseurship and criticism: Their form and functions in educational evaluation.” Journal of Aesthetic Education. Vol. 10, No. 3/4. pp. 135-150.
Eisner, Elliot W. (1994) Cognition and curriculum reconsidered, 2e, New York: Teachers College Press.
Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 32(3), 465–491.
Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.
Noddings, N. (1992). The challenge to care in schools: An alternative approach to education. New York: Teachers College Press.
Noddings, N. (Ed.). (2005). Educating citizens for global awareness. New York: Teachers College Press.
Ogulnick, K. (Ed.). (2000) Language crossings: Negotiating the self in a multicultural world. New York: Teachers College Press.
Paris, D. (2012). Culturally sustaining pedagogy: A needed change in stance, terminology, and practice. Educational Researcher, 41(3), 93–97.
Shulman, L. (1987). “Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform.” Harvard Educational Review. Vol. 57, No. 1. pp. 1 – 22.